Friday, May 28, 2010

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

Rating: 6/10

I have heard so much about this book and naturally, I went into it with very high expectations and I will be honest and admit that I have mixed feelings about this book. Considered a classic of sorts, Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a haunting tale of the troubles and travails that the nameless narrator, the second wife of Maximilian de Winter, faces in the ominous house of Manderley. Mr. De Winter’s first wife Rebecca who died recently seems to have left herself in everyone’s memory as a perfect wife hard to compare to, let alone better.

If only the book had stayed with as much suspense, thrill and anticipation as its first line ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’, I would have adored the book. The book takes an uncomfortably long time to set up its main plot and more than 250 pages into the book, I was still wondering where the book was going.

Our nameless narrator, the new mistress of Manderley, is so timid, dull and frankly, spineless. She falls into traps laid by the horrid housekeeper Mrs. Danvers time and again. You can see those traps coming, almost certainly. Yet, our narrator does not. Many a time, she withholds vital information from her husband, which you know she ought to tell soon. As she says towards the end of the book:
“Had I made one step forward out of my own shyness, Maxim would have told me these things four months, five months ago”

Which is precisely my point. That would have cut short some repetitive emotions of the anger, helplessness, sadness and pain that she continues to feel seeing herself compared unfavourably to glamorous Rebecca and would have thereby made the book more crisp and thrilling. Anyway, once the main twist happens, though it happens late in the book, things pick up and the plot moves at a frenzied pace. I could not put down the book from that point onward until I finished reading it.

Du Maurier’s writing is sometimes too descriptive, but she is at her best with the characterisation of Rebecca. Rebecca is a character who stays with the reader long after the book is over, much like she stays with those people she knew at Manderley, even after her death. Her memory haunts, makes and breaks events in this book.

This is one of those books I’m looking forward to rereading, because it has a lot of layers that will be worth analyzing when I read it again. To sum it up, I definitely think Rebecca is worth reading, but I personally didn’t find it to be the absolutely amazing book that it is widely praised to be.

My edition of Rebecca has an ‘introduction’ by Sally Beauman, which I’m glad I foresaw would contain spoilers and didn’t read till I finished the book. I do hope publishers don’t include write-ups with spoilers before the story as an introduction! It would work so very well to read an essay about the book after we’re done reading the story, not as an ‘introduction’ which a lot of people might mistake as a spoiler-less overview or outline. I know I’ve done that mistake before!

P.S. Sorry for not posting much or commenting on other blogs in the past few days. My internet is horrid and till it gets back to normal, I'm afraid it will take time for me to catch up with things in the blogging world!


Priya Parmar said...

sally beauman wrote a wonderful book (among all her wonderful books--she is one of my favorites) called rebecca's tale. it takes catches up with the story many years later and re-examines it. it is wonderful.

Vaishnavi said...

I actually loved Rebecca..even though the protagonist infuriated me on occasion. But I rather think that it was deliberate on the author's part to make her that colourless. She doesn't even have a name.....our girl is lifeless compared to Rebecca but in the end she proves resilient.....these are two characters I keep wondering about. Have you read the Frenchman's Creek? You will enjoy it :)

Lady Scribbles said...

Hmm I was going to read this one over the summer but I lost interest in wanting to and took it back to the library. Good review though. Maybe one day I might give it another shot.

Tanu said...

I read this about 8-9 years back and vaguely remember how I felt. The book is beautifully written; however, I felt that it was just too much. The beginning was long and boring. Later, the story somewhat picked up. I think if this book was shorter with all the elements, it would've been more enjoyable. Great Review!!!

This book reminded me of Indian Soaps. The wives never share anything with their husbands because they don't want to "trouble" them, and they will figure it out. In the end, they get in more trouble than they should have.

Vaishnavi said...

Hey I would liek to know where you got hold of Very Valentine...I can't seem to find it in the stores..

Kals said...

Priya - I read about Beauman's Rebecca's Tale. I'd love to read that angle for sure =)

Vaishnavi - Will get hold of Frenchman's Creek sometime soon :) I understand that Du Maurier made the narrator the exact opposite of Rebecca, but I couldn't get past the foolishness of the lead character. I knew perfectly well what was behind Mrs. Danvers' suggestion for her costume ball dress. But she was so naive!

Very Valentine is available in Landmark. I didn't buy it there, but got it from my library :)

Lady Scribbles - Thanks! For all the problems I had with the book, it was an enjoyable read towards the end and I think it's worth reading =)

Tanu - I absolutely agree with all the points you make! That was the problem I had. LOL about the Indian soaps reference. But sadly, true!

Vaishnavi said...

I have to agree with you on that one! The fact that she actually took Mrs. Danvers' advice on the gown made me groan!

vvb32 reads said...

i plan on re-reading this one sometime too. what i liked about this story is how rebecca is such a main focus despite being dead. her presence even overwhelmed the nameless narrator. amazing writing in that respect.

Kals said...

Vaishnavi - LOL. I did too! It increased my annoyance with the narrator.

Velvet - Absolutely agree! Rebecca, who never makes a 'living' appearance in the book haunts the reader and the characters much more than any other living character does. That was amazing :) I'd love to reread it sometime soon too!


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